Velociraptors: Non-avian Dinosaurs and Birds

Contrary to what you may have seen in the films, textbooks, and other pictorial representations, velociraptors were really just about the size of a domesticated turkey, being just about 3 feet tall and 6 feet long, with a lot of the span coming from the tail. They also only weighed in at approximately 20-30 lbs, full-grown. Over that, they actually looked somewhat like a turkey, but with a very long tail.

As it happens, velociraptors were very much like birds in a great deal of ways. They had hollow bones, feathers, constructed nests for their eggs, and therefore are thought to have behaved very much like birds. In fact, we now know that dinosaurs and birds are intimately associated with evolution, which feathered dinosaurs were somewhat common.

Velociraptors - feathered dinosaurs

“Non-avian Dinosaurs” and Birds

The fact is that many dinosaurs and birds are intimately related by evolutionary ties. In fact, dinosaurs are not extinct, technically. Based on features of the skeleton, most scientists studying dinosaurs consider birds to be dinosaurs. This shocking realization makes even the smallest hummingbird a legitimate dinosaur. So rather than refer to “dinosaurs” and birds as discrete, separate groups, it is best to refer to the traditional, extinct animals as “non-avian dinosaurs” and birds as, well, birds, or “avian dinosaurs.” It is incorrect to say that dinosaurs are extinct, because they have left living descendants in the form of cockatoos, cassowaries etc., just like modern vertebrates are still vertebrates even though their Cambrian ancestors are long extinct.

Non-avian Dinosaurs

As Mark Norell, curator of fossil reptiles, amphibians, and birds at the American Museum of Natural History, stated:

The more that we learn about these animals the more we find that there is basically no difference between birds and their closely related dinosaur ancestors like velociraptor. Both have wishbones; brooded their nests; possess hollow bones; and were covered in feathers. If animals like velociraptor were alive today, our first impression would be that they were just very unusual looking birds.

Velociraptors fossil

What’s more, the “velociraptor” presented in the film Jurassic Park was really a deinonychus. The deinonychus were additionally raptors, but were considerably larger than the velociraptors, coming in at approximately 12 feet long, about 6 ft tall, and weighing about 150 pounds full-grown. Picture that the “velociraptor” in Jurassic Park and you get a fairly good idea about exactly what the deinonychus were presumed to have looked like (although there still is some debate over whether they also had feathers). The deinonychus also were believed to possess sometimes hunted in packs (like their portrayal in the film) to bring down larger prey and have been presumed to have been very quickly.

What is Velociraptors ?

The title “velociraptor” comes from the Latin “velox”, meaning “swift”, and “raptor”, meaning “robber” or “plunderer”. The title was chosen by paleontologist Henry F. Osborn in 1924, after he found the fossil in Mongolia that same year.

Much like chickens and turkeys, velociraptors also had comparable appearing claws, but in the velociraptors’ case with the middle claw being retractable. It could extend out to about 3 inches for stabbing and slashing and was the velociraptors’ principal weapon.

Velociraptors were also probably warm-blooded. They are thought to have had about the same metabolism as the kiwi, which will be similar in body, such as type, bone structure, and nasal passages; the latter of which is usually a fantastic indicator of metabolism in animals. Additionally, cold-blooded creatures normally won’t pursue prey; they prefer to lie in wait until the prey comes to them. Velociraptors clearly were developed to chase prey.